Brassed off

Yes, feeling brassed off*. This weekend we should have been making our pilgrimage to the iconic Royal Albert Hall, London, for the National Brass Band Championships. Alas this is yet another event understandably cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions. This would have been my twentieth visit to the main event, attracting an audience of over 4000, and other fringe activities in London over the weekend.

The competition has been held there since 1945, and is one of the most prestigious events in the Brass Band calendar. I first attended in 1968 and was immediately impressed by the size and atmosphere of the fascinating building. The acoustics are unusual and the hall has a noticeable echo. Various attempts have been made to improve acoustics over the years as can be seen in the acoustic diffusing discs hung from the roof and lit purple and blue.

Twenty championship bands, representing all the regions of Great Britain, compete for the title and magnificent trophy. The day starts with a draw for order of play when band hope to avoid the number one spot and be first on. Three adjudicators sit in an enclosed box so they can hear but not see which band is playing. 2018 was a special year for us when Foden’s, a band very close to our hearts, were crowned winners for the fourteenth time in their history.

Foden’s Band

Maybe, just maybe, we will be there on 9th October 2021.

*For my overseas followers, ‘brassed off’ is a British expression meaning fed up or disgruntled. It is also the title of a feel-good film which tells the story of the fictitious Grimley Colliery Band facing closure but overcoming various difficulties and obstacles to go on and win the championships.

Whit Marches

6x4 Whit Marches

A couple of weeks ago we had the pleasure of attending the Whit Marches in the Tameside, Oldham and Saddleworth area in North West England. These are a series of brass band competitions held in 22 towns and villages on the edge of the Pennines and date back to the 1870s.  Whit Friday has traditionally been a holiday in the area. On the Friday morning the traditional church Whit Walks take place and in the evening each village holds its own brass band contest. Well over 100 bands from all over the country tour the area in coaches, visiting as many contests as they can. The bands include all levels from Championship level, including National Champions Foden’s, to school and youth bands. This year there were also bands from Canada, Iceland, Sweden and Switzerland.

At each venue each band performs two pieces – a march performed on the move, where they may be awarded marks for deportment, and a set piece performed on a temporary band stand.  The adjudicators are concealed in a caravan or nearby room, awarding marks without knowing the bands’ identities.

The Whit Friday contests are a favourite event in the brass band calendar and attract thousands of people. They are often described as ‘the greatest free show on earth!’6x4 Whit Marches backWM5